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Gators listen well

Florida coach Carol Ross hounded her players all week: Watch out, she said. Louisiana Tech is aggressive, intense, and will mow you down if you're not careful.

That got old fast.

"I think our players were probably sick of hearing how hard Louisiana Tech plays," Ross said. "I think they wanted to prove something not only to Tech but to the coaches."

Whatever works. The adrenaline-filled Gators ran the Tech- sters ragged from the outset Saturday. They built an early 20-point lead and more or less coasted to a 71-57 victory in their first appearance in the Sweet 16.

No. 7-ranked Florida, seeded third in the Mideast Regional, dominated No. 5-ranked and No. 2 seed Louisiana Tech in the first half with punishing defense. The Techsters, who have three national titles and as many victories in the NCAA Tournament in the past two years as the Gators have in their history, were held to 20 percent shooting.

In its past two games, including Monday's victory over Southern Cal, Florida has beaten teams with five national championships between them.

"We respect history and tradition," Ross said wryly, "but we're also trying to make a little of our own."

Next the Gators face another tradition-rich program _ No. 2-ranked and top seed Old Dominion (32-1), a 62-49 winner over Louisiana State in the other semifinal. The teams meet in the final at 7 p.m. Monday in a game to be broadcast on ESPN.

Florida (24-8) again was led by forward/center Murriel Page. The star of the USC victory scored 19 points and grabbed 13 rebounds, both game highs. But senior All-America forward DeLisha Milton also was on target offensively, for the first time in four games.

Milton scored 18 points, 11 during a 20-6 run in the second half that squelched any hope of a Louisiana Tech comeback.

Meanwhile, the Techsters' top players didn't deliver. Leading scorer Alisa Burras, a junior center who is the team's oldest player, missed her first eight shots and was 7-of-20. Most of her 15 points and 11 rebounds came in the second half.

Point guard Tamicha Jackson, one of the most heralded freshmen in the country, scored just six points and made six turnovers.

"We never expected to be beaten like this," Tech coach Leon Barmore said. "That was as well-prepared a team as we've played at Tech in a long time."

The Gators shocked Louisiana Tech and even surprised Ross by rolling up a fat lead right away. While the Techsters went 0-for-15 from the field in the first seven minutes, the Gators built a 13-1 edge.

Even a timeout didn't help. The Techsters made two of their first 22 shots and fell behind 29-9.

Despite their youth and inexperience _ no starters returned _ the Techsters battled back. They closed the first half strong and opened the second with an 8-0 run to pull within 36-28.

That's when the 6-foot-1 Milton stepped in _ or rather, out. She hit four shots from just inside the three-point line in four minutes to make it 46-33.

"That really kind of rejuvenated our offense," Ross said. "From there, the momentum shifted."

Milton's teammates joined in and combined for a 17-6 run that put the Techsters away for good.

Talatha Bingham (14 points) and Dana Smith (10) also scored in double figures to join Page and Milton. Point guard Mahogany Hudson scored six points and grabbed seven rebounds playing against Jackson.

"I think we made a good run in the second half, but give Florida credit," Barmore said. "They didn't crack. They won and won decisively."

OLD DOMINION 62, LSU 49: Back in the regional final for the first time since the national championship year of 1985, Old Dominion and coach Wendy Larry will take any kind of victory.

"It was a very ugly game," Larry said after the Monarchs overcame their worst shooting of the season.

The Monarchs made up for their offensive troubles with an overpowering rebounding effort and a suffocating defense that held the Tigers (25-5) without a field goal for nearly 10 minutes in the first half.

Old Dominion (32-1) took a nation-leading 50.6 shooting percentage into the game. The Monarchs shot 27.5 in the first half and 32.8 for the game.

"Our defense usually makes us go offensively," said Nyree Roberts, who had 21 points. "We weren't being aggressive enough early, forcing turnovers. It was frustrating. I missed five shots in the first couple of minutes, and then Coach Larry pulled me off to the bench. When I got back in, I was more focused."

_ Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.